This weekend could mark a major turning point for the Wisconsin men’s soccer team, as the Badgers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak that they hope to end against Drake and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
After losses to Virginia, California-Irvine and Memphis after an impressive start to their 2011 campaign, the Badgers start off their weekend doubleheader against the Drake Bulldogs today. Drake currently sits at 4-1-1, and, according to coaches, strongly resembles the Memphis team Wisconsin fell to Sunday.
Much like the Tigers, the Bulldogs have an attacking offense that will put plenty of shots on goal. Hailing from the Missouri Valley Conference, UW will have to avoid overlooking an opponent that will be hungry to take down a Big Ten squad at Flames Field.
“We’ve been very pleased with many aspects of the team, but it’s those little moments – maybe you could break it down into seconds or minutes within a game – where we’re still seeming to find a way to give the momentum to the other team,” head coach John Trask said.
Losing each of their last two games by a single goal, including a double overtime loss to UC-Irvine, it’s clear that Wisconsin’s record is not indicative of their level of play. But as the coaches and players point out, momentary lapses and slow starts have already cost the Badgers several games this year.
Led by two fifth-year senior midfielders in Matt Kuhn and Charles Schwartz, Drake will present another tough test for the Badgers’ defense. Riding a two-game winning streak and putting up 13 goals in six games thus far, the Bulldogs certainly won’t lack confidence when they line up across from the Badgers toght.
Just like UW, the Bulldogs lost by one goal to a talented UC-Irvine squad on the road, a testament to their ability to remain competitive with premiere teams. Though the non-conference schedule has not gone as planned for UW, their first weekend matchup with Drake will show how well the team is able to rebound after a tough stretch of games.
“The team’s disappointed that we’ve lost games that we should’ve won, but I feel like all the guys’ heads are still up. We’re still confident,” sophomore forward Chris Prince said. “We know what we’re capable of, and I think that’s really going to start showing the next two or three games.”
While Wisconsin will be playing on the road in downtown Chicago, they expect to have plenty of Badger fans at the game. The game this weekend carries even more meaning for Prince, a Naperville, Ill., native who will have friends and family watching him from the stands.
“I can’t wait to play back at home,” Prince said. “It’s pretty much going to feel like a home game for me, even though it’s away.”
UW hopes to contain Twellman, rest of Cougars’ offense
Often struggling this year with Friday-Sunday games, the Badgers will be looking to reverse the trend Sunday when they take on SIU Edwardsville at Flames Field.
Dropping the second game of both of their doubleheader weekend matchups this season, Wisconsin seems to have trouble putting together two strong performances in the same weekend. However, despite their recent struggles, coaches have been impressed with how the team has bounced back in practice since their second loss of the weekend Sunday to Memphis.
“When you’ve lost three [games in a row], there’s obviously a little element of questioning themselves, but I think they’ve handled it well. I think they came to work this week. … That was our level of expectation,” Trask said.
Much like Drake, SIUE (3-1-1) has started off the season strong but hasn’t faced the same caliber of competition as the Badgers. On the offensive side, the Cougars are led by Jack Twellman, a senior midfielder/forward who has scored nearly half of SIUE’s nine goals this year.
Led by senior Colin Mani and junior Kyle McCrudden, the UW defense has at times looked quite intimidating for opponents, but its ability to put in a complete game could be key to limiting Twellman and the rest of the Cougars’ offense.
While things haven’t been going as planned for Wisconsin recently, the team is trying to keep things in perspective and remember that it’s still early in the season. With that in mind, the Badgers are confident they will start putting together complete games and picking up victories.
“We all honestly feel like we can win every game we go into, and we are expecting that,” junior midfielder Tomislav Zadro said. “I think this weekend we’re going to win two wins, and I think we’re on the right track. I think we’ll have a successful season.”